Internet accessibility for people with disabilities

3 December 2008 - A Workshop on Access in Hyderabad, India

Agenda

Agenda of the Meeting

Access to information and communication is a key aspect for participation in society. If people with disabilities are to exercise their rights actively, participate and make choices about their lives, it is essential that they can access information through adequate communication systems. For many people with disabilities, however, information and communication continue to be largely inaccessible. Ongoing developments in information and communications are changing the way in which citizens interact with each other, conduct business, access services and information and communicate generally. Technological advancements include the Internet, eCommunication facilities, videophones, etc. It is important that all citizens benefit from such technological advancements and that no group be excluded, in particular people with disabilities. Public bodies have a particular duty to ensure that their information is accessible in a range of formats responding to the diverse needs of people with disabilities. Such bodies should also be models of best practice for the private sector, and all those providing services to people with disabilities, who should be encouraged to adopt such practices also. Communication systems must also be accessible to people with disabilities.

There are already good examples of the types of systems that can be used, such as telephone relay systems or text and video communication systems. New technologies and Internet, in particular, can in certain cases compensate for disability in daily living, generate independence and social integration. Internet should be seen both as a service in its own right and as a means to reach other services. For many people with disabilities, accessibility of Internet is a pre-requisite, a stepping stone for getting access to education, employment, health care, tourism and many other services. That also means that people with disabilities are primary stakeholders, when it comes to Internet development. People with disabilities should be consulted regarding the development of standards and the design of new communication and information systems. If we are to have a truly inclusive society, people with disabilities must be able to use information and communication systems along with everyone else.

On this basis, the workshop discussions will be centred around the following three main topics:

1. Acknowledging the public service value of the Internet through responsible public policy-making and private commitment to improving the accessibility of the Internet for people with disabilities.

2. International and national legal instruments and strategies promoting the accessibility of the Internet for people with disabilities and -- vice versa -- the role of the Internet in contributing to the implementation of these instruments (e.g. United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Council of Europe Disability Action Plan 2006-2015, national e-accessibility strategies, etc.).

3. Provision of accessibility solutions for the existing systems, products and services, and the application of Universal Design principles for all newly created ones.

Agenda

Chair: Angela Garabagiu, Council of Europe

Co-Chair: Madam Hu Qiheng, Chairman of Internet Society of China

1. Access to information and communication for people with disabilities – the human rights perspective (36 mins)

Speakers:

a) "From equal access to information to full participation and inclusion" -- Ms Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, the Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe

b) UN Convention on the rights of Persons with Disabilities -- Damian Tatic, former member of the Civil Society Caucus in the process of drafting of the UN Convention, Legal Advisor, Serbia (7 mins)

c) The role of intergovernmental co-operation in promoting Internet accessibility for people with disabilities -- Angela Garabagiu, Council of Europe (7 mins)

d) “Nothing about us without us” -- Participation of people with disabilities in policy-making with regard to Internet Governance – the case of EDF participation in EU policy-making on e-accessibility – representative of the European Disability Forum (EDF) (7 mins)

Panelists invited to take part in the debates as a follow-up to WG1 of the Dynamic Coalition on “Accessibility and Disability” (DCAD) (10 mins): Andrea Beccalli (UNESCO), Cynthia Waddell (ICDRI)

2. Contribution of Internet developers to granting universal access to Internet (24 mins)

Speakers:

a) Universal Design as one of the basic principles contributing to a greater Internet accessibility for people with disabilities -- Klaus-Peter Wegge, Germany, former Chairman of the Council of Europe Committee of Experts on Universal Design (Accessibility) (proposed) (7 mins)

b) Digital and Web accessibility for people with disabilities: AccessiWeb -- Pierre Guillou, AccessiWeb, France (7 mins) Panelists invited to take part in the debates as a follow-up to WG1 of the Dynamic Coalition on “Accessibility and Disability” (DCAD) (10 mins): Shadi Abou-Zahra (W3C-WAI Initiative), Fernando Botelho (Literacy Bridge)

3. Information Technology and Standards to promote equal opportunity for people with disabilities – how are the standardisation processes contributing to ensuring Internet access for people with disabilities? (25 mins)

Speaker:

a) Information Technology and Standards to promote equal opportunity for people with disabilities -- Mr. Gao Xinmin, Standing Vice Chairman of Internet Society of China (15 mins)

Discussion (10 mins)

4. Wrap up: conclusions, messages and reporting back (5 mins)

Panelists

  • Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe 
  • Hu Qiheng, Chairman of Internet Society of China
  • Damian Tatic, former member of the Civil Society Caucus in the process of drafting of the UN Convention, Legal Advisor, Serbia
  • Angela Garabagiu, Council of Europe
  • Andrea Beccalli (UNESCO)
  • Klaus-Peter Wegge, Germany
  • Pierre Guillou, AccessiWeb, France Dynamic Coalition on “Accessibility and Disability” (DCAD) representative
  • Cynthia Waddell (ICDRI) 
  • Shadi Abou-Zahra (W3C-WAI Initiative)
  • Fernando Botelho (Literacy Bridge)
  • Mr. Gao Xinmin, Standing Vice Chairman of Internet Society of China

Co-Organizers

The Secretariat of the the European Co-ordination Forum for the Council of Europe Disability Action Plan 2006-2015 will organise the workshop together with organisations and associations active in the field, such as the European disability movement organisations (partners to be confirmed), and public and private sector, and academia. In this connection, geographical, gender, multisectorial and multiprofessional representation of stakeholder groups will be ensured.